Top Tips for Improving Mental Maths Skills for the UCAT ANZ Quantitative Reasoning Section

The Quantitative Reasoning (QR) section of the UCAT ANZ assesses your ability to solve numerical problems quickly. Due to the limited time available (36 questions in 25 minutes), having good mental maths skills is essential for mastering this section.

Here, we present five top tips for refining your mental maths skills:

1. Make use of the front-end strategy in your UCAT ANZ revision:

In primary school, most students are taught to start from the right and progress to the left when adding and subtracting numbers. While this works perfectly well for adding and subtracting on paper, it is more intuitive and easier to go from left to right when computing mentally.

For example, when you add 38 to 93, you can add 30 to 90 to get 120, then add 8 to 3 to get 11, then add the two sums to get 131.

You can also use the front-end strategy for subtraction. For subtraction, if you were to solve 285 - 127, you can subtract 100 from 285 to get 185, then subtract 20 from 185 to get 165, then finally subtract 7 from 165 to get 158.

There are some variations to front-end strategies so you can use the approach that suits you the best. 

While this left-to-right strategy may seem like going through extra steps at first, you will soon be able to solve such equations in a second with some practice.

This is a powerful time-saving strategy for two or three digit numbers, but for four digits or more you may find that using a calculator is faster and less error-prone.

2. Multiply by parts in your UCAT ANZ revision:

Many students will scratch their heads and reach out for their calculators if they had a question where you had to multiply 4 by 87. However, if you break this into parts by multiplying 4 x 80 and 4 x 7, and then adding the results (320 and 28), you will soon get the answer (348).

3. Familiarise yourself with UCAT ANZ basic fractions and percentages:

½ is 50%, ¼ is 25% and ⅕ is 20%. Too easy for you right? But can you convert ⅞ to percentages or 4% to fractions off the top of your head? 

While you should certainly not sweat yourself over memorising conversion of complex fractions and percentages, knowing common conversions can save you valuable time while sitting your UCAT ANZ QR section.

For example, you can familiarise yourself with the percentage equivalent of all fractions with denominators of 6, 8, 9 and 12. Some larger denominators can be particularly useful too.

For example, if you know that 1/25 is 4%, you can easily work out that 3/25 is 12% and that 28% is 7/25.

4. Estimation can be very useful in the UCAT ANZ:

When you face a more tricky question involving larger numbers or decimal points, you should definitely use the on-screen calculator. However, when you manipulate more complex numbers on the calculator, you become more vulnerable to making mistakes, for example, adding an extra zero or missing out a decimal point.

In such cases, rounding individual numbers and estimating the solution can be very useful. It gives you a rough 'feel' for the answer, which acts as an extra checking point. Since the UCAT ANZ QR section is limited in time and you will likely not have time for double-checking, this tip can save you from losing marks unnecessarily.

5. Practise, practise and practise the UCAT ANZ:

Just as you cannot learn how to play golf or drive a car by reading a book, simply reading about the smart tips above won’t automatically improve your mental maths skills. 

To attain procedural fluency, you need to apply these tips on a myriad of practice sessions to really make them yours. To get started, there are plenty of free websites that provide as many basic arithmetic practice questions as you need. 

Once you feel more confident, you should try questions that closely resemble the real UCAT ANZ QR section. You will be glad to hear that our UCAT ANZ Online Course features thousands of QR questions that get you fully prepared to ace the QR section, as well as other sections.

We’ve updated all of our mocks and mini-mocks to reflect the latest changes to the UCAT ANZ Quantitative Reasoning section.

Medify’s UCAT helping hand in a blue circle with a yellow smiling emoji

Do you need help with preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Please don’t worry, head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through this whole process.

We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.


What should I do one month before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one month left

Keep practising! A month sounds like a long time, but time will quickly vanish. Set SMART  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals such as reaching a certain score by a certain date or time. 

Niche down even further on your weaknesses – by this stage you should just be focusing on what you find hardest. Make sure you factor in breaks and days off into your schedule, as well as any important events which you need to attend.

Read the 'Good medical practice' by the Medical Board of Australia if you haven’t already. It will inform you about the different duties of healthcare professionals and how they should respond to different scenarios, which is essential for the Situational Judgement Test section of the UCAT.

Try Medify's Skills Trainers, such as inference scanning for Verbal Reasoning, to maximise your score (these are included in our UCAT ANZ Online Course). Make sure you've also completed plenty of UCAT practice tests.

The UCAT exam is two hours with no breaks in between, so practise at least two hours each time to build your mental stamina. You should also simulate the exam environment as closely as possible – this means treating every mock test as if it were a real one. 

For instance, you should sit mock exams at the same time of the day as your actual UCAT exam and ensure there are no distractions. By mirroring the test conditions, not only will it prepare you for what to expect on test day, it should also help to decrease any anxiety leading up to the exam. Otherwise, your brain has to process the ‘new’ way of completing the test.

What should I do one week before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one week left

At this point, you'll know the format of the exam inside out and will have practised the questions enough times to get used to UCAT timings. Don’t give up – keep preparing in an environment where you cannot be interrupted.

Remember, a lot of your preparation will have been done in the weeks and months before this final week, so be careful not to overdo it and become too fatigued. Your motivation may drop or you might ‘peak’ before the test. Your body needs rest too. 

Now is a great time to introduce or increase self-care in your regime. Whether it’s watching Netflix, gaming, or just running a bath, it’s important to detach yourself from UCAT revision from time to time to avoid the risk of burnout.

In this week you should also prioritise your nutrition and sleep. Eat well, do not miss meals and keep hydrated. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep in the days before the test by avoiding late night cramming or staying awake into the early hours.

If it puts your mind at rest, you can check last year’s UCAT scores, but remember that this is all about your personal journey and performance, so don't get hung up on that information!

What should I do one day before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one day left

We do not advise doing a mock this close to the exam. Revision won't help you much at this stage and can actually leave you worse off. Instead, use this time to wind down and get yourself into a relaxed state. This will enable you to perform at your best on test day.

Try to get to bed early and avoid things that can affect sleep, such as looking at your phone before bed. If you think that you will struggle to sleep on time, you could try doing some exercise during the day to tire yourself out. 

Exercise can boost your brainpower by oxygenating your brain, helping you learn and aid sleep. Plus, activity makes your body release endorphins, which can reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Make sure you double check your UCAT test centre information, the travel route to the test centre, the time of your UCAT exam, and so on, so you’re well prepared for test day. If someone else is giving you a ride to the test centre, it’s worth reminding them.

What should I do on the day of my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar circling today's date

You should start the day off with a nutritious breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive early to the test centre to avoid feeling flustered, rushed or stressed.

Remember that buses and trains can be late and that traffic may be heavier than you had hoped, so allow extra time whichever way you are travelling. Find out how to choose a UCAT test centre.

Make sure you know how to get to the test centre – for instance you could consider taking a map with you. If you’re using your phone for directions, make sure it’s sufficiently charged and that you have spare data (otherwise you can download the map ahead of time to use offline).

On test day you will be expected to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process.

You need to bring:

  • Your test confirmation email
  • Photographic ID from the approved list

When you arrive at the test centre, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a heightened sense of adrenaline. This is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some mindfulness tricks to reduce your stress levels. For instance, you could focus on your breathing to help you relax.

Don’t forget, during your test there are one minute introductions between each subtest. You can skip these, but we recommend using the time to mentally refresh yourself.

If you’ve stuck to your revision plan, and followed our advice above, the best thing you can do on test day is to try and keep as calm as possible. Take solace in the fact that you have prepared for weeks/months to get to this point, and channel any nervous energy into doing the best you can during your UCAT test. 

What should I eat and drink leading up to the UCAT?

You should think about your diet well ahead of UCAT test day. Focus on foods that release energy slowly (that is, which have a low glycaemic index, or GI) which will stop you from feeling hungry. These are ideal for UCAT preparation, as well as on test day itself.

Try eating protein and low-GI carbohydrates, such as meat or baked beans, brown (whole grain) rice or pasta, or wholegrain breakfast cereals or muesli. However, do not stray far from your usual diet on the day of the test in case you feel sick. You may want to try these foods out at the same time of day a few weeks in advance.

Be wary of energy drinks and coffee. If you’re not used to them then don’t drink them, especially in large quantities. Caffeine can acutely increase anxiety, and the sugar rush of an energy drink is soon followed by insulin slamming on the brakes, leaving you feeling worse than before. These products are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, eating properly and exercising.

No food or drink is allowed in the test room so eat a healthy meal before your UCAT test and ensure you’re hydrated. While you should make sure you’re drinking enough water, do not overdo it, otherwise you might need the toilet while the timer is ticking.

Please note, access arrangements are available if you have a disability, learning difficulty or long-term medical condition. You may be entitled to extra time and/or rest breaks, and allowed certain items, such as water, at your test centre workstation. 

What happens at the UCAT test centre?

  1. At the registration desk, you will be asked to show a valid photographic ID and a printed/electronic copy of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE. 
  2. You will be asked to sign a signature pad and take a photograph.
  3. You will be given spiral bound laminated sheets and a black marker pen. You may also request earplugs.
  4. Do not take anything other than your ID into the examination room. A locker or a coat hanger will be available.
  5. Go to the bathroom if you need to.
  6. Once the staff have prepared your exam, you may enter the exam room. You may be asked to undergo a body check (e.g. turning up your pockets and rolling your sleeves).
  7. The staff will guide you to the seat, or you may be able to choose your desk. Take some time to prepare yourself and relax. Your two hours have not yet started.

What is the UCAT test environment like?

This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:

Taking the UCAT at a test centre

There is no audio element to the test, but you can request earplugs to block out any noise that might disrupt your concentration. 

You will have access to a basic onscreen calculator which may be useful for the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making sections.

You will be given a laminated notebook and marker pen. Consider using these for:

If you require an additional notebook and pen, you can raise your hand and ask the invigilator. Although the invigilator will check that your pen is working before the test, we advise double-checking this to avoid seeking assistance during the test.

What happens during my UCAT test?

  1. Once you are ready, follow the on-screen instructions.
  2. Your exam will be in the following order:
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement
  1. You will have one minute before each section to read the instructions. You can skip it, but this will not give you an extra minute to answer the questions. Use this time to give your mind a quick break.
  2. If you have any issues, such as requiring a toilet break, you can quietly raise your hand. However, your time will continue running.
  3. After your exam, there may be an opportunity to answer a short optional survey on UCAT ANZ preparation and the quality of the venue.
  4. Raise your hand when you've finished and the examiner will guide you out of the exam room. You need to return your laminated board and marker pen.
  5. Collect your belongings and leave the test centre.
  6. Your UCAT ANZ results will be emailed to you shortly (usually between 30 minutes and one hour). All results will be delivered to UCAT ANZ Consortium universities automatically.
  7. If you’ve achieved the scores that you desire, well done.
  8. Even if you haven’t achieved the scores you wanted, congratulate yourself for getting through a really tough process. You've done exceptionally well just to get to this point. Plus, you can always take the UCAT again next year or consider graduate entry to medicine – do not give up on your dream!

Do you need help preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through the whole process.

We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

1 in 2 students prepare for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Buy Now

Want access to 20,000+ UCAT questions?

Learn More